Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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For Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary, Watch Collecting Is Serious BusinessForbes, November 30th
O'Leary's collection consists of about 32 watches, with the aforementioned Reverso, a Panerai Luminor Base Acciaio, and a Rolex Submariner as go-to pieces. And unless it's a metal bracelet style, every one of his watches is fitted with his signature...Read more
Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy, Part 16: Panerai LuminorWatchtime.com, November 29th
A little over a month ago, we covered the first of Panerai's two flagship series: the Radiomir. This week we come to the second of the two, a series that while a little younger in age does not lack in comparative heritage: the Panerai Luminor. Released...Read more
Green with Envy: Panerai's First Ladies Watch?Luxury London (press release), November 27th
Panerai might just have released its first ladies watch. While the company falls short of branding it as such, the size of the Radiomir 1940 3 Days Acciaio – at 42mm, it's part of the smallest collection offered by the brand – and its lime-green strap...Read more
Officine Panerai displays unique timepieces at the Jewellery ArabiaTrade Arabia, November 24th
Officine Panerai, the high-end Italian watchmaker renowned for its unique blend of Italian design and Swiss technology, will unveil its remarkable timepieces at the Jewellery Arabia 2015, which opened in Bahrain today (November 24). The exhibition is...Read more
Panerai pays tribute to Italian rootsSouth China Morning Post (subscription), November 23rd
Officine Panerai has made some exciting achievements. Not only has the brand renovated and expanded its historical Florence store, its involvement in restoring the great Duomo clock in Florence is also something to be proud of. Plus the release of an ...Read more
«Le franc fort a inquiété Panerai un moment, ce n'est plus le cas»Le Temps, November 23rd
C'est désormais un passage presque obligé pour les griffes horlogères: la publication d'un grand livre retraçant l'histoire de la marque. Panerai, dans le giron du groupe Richemont depuis 1997 mais née à Florence en 1860, a réalisé l'exercice cet automne...Read more
Radiomir 1940 Tourbillon GMT Oro Rosso – 48mmWorld Tempus, November 15th
Thanks to the sponsorship of Panerai, in 2012 the Museo Galileo in Florence created a section where period exhibits and interactive multimedia devices illustrate Galileo's decisive contribution to the history of time measurement. At the same time...Read more
This founder gave up a part of his Panerai collection to finance his start-upEconomic Times, November 8th
The entrepreneur gave up part of his Panerai collection to finance his startup, Prime Art Capital. His idea, Prime Collector app, helps amateur as well as veteran collectors keep track of the inventory and offers succession and other facilities that...Read more